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Pete Carroll May Have Actually Stayed With USC After All, But Would It Have Mattered

Four years following his departure from the program, Pete Carroll reflects on the highly debated NCAA sanctions.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Hot off the presses, USC is now finally free from NCAA sanctions.

Former head coach Pete Carroll, who resurrected the football program from underwhelming mediocrity into the national football power they had historically been, believes that knowing what he did now about everything involving coach Todd McNair and former running back Reggie Bush, he would have actually stuck around with the USC.

"Had we known that that was imminent ... I would never have been able to leave under those circumstances," Carroll told the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein. "When I look back now, I would have stayed there to do what we needed to do to resolve the problem."

While the Trojans were unable to reach the level of sustained success seen under former coach Pete Carroll, they did post double-digit win seasons in two of four years since his departure. USC officially comes off probation Tuesday, a probation that was levied on June 10, 2010, which is almost five months to the day since Carroll left for Seattle.

Certainly Carroll never worked under the resultant penalties that severely undermanned recruiting classes for former offensive assistant Lane Kiffin, who worked alongside him as well as current coach Steve Sarkisian back in the "glory days" for USC football, but the Trojans new regime understands that the last few years were tough but thankfully over.

"I think we've kind of worked our way through this. When you think about it... in spite of those penalties we did win 10 [football] games twice, we put together $120 million of renovations in our athletic facilities. We've recruited pretty good classes even though they're lower numbers... and I think we've embraced compliance while still allowing the joy of athletics." -Haden told the LA Times

What happened during Carroll's reign was tremendous and inspiring for a variety of reasons, but what resulted following his departure created anger, passion and an entire change in philosophy to resurrect that magical winning tradition.

For Carroll, who became just the third coach to win both the Super Bowl and the National Championship, showed that winning, even through rowdy even unconventional methods for inspiration, can surely translate to all levels of football.

While Carroll's unprecedented .835 winning percentage was certainly tough to match given the current recruiting landscape, and arguably much more formidable Pac-12 foes in Stanford, UCLA and Oregon, fans came to expect those type of results and would love to have seen much the same under such these last few years under his inspired leadership


What then needs to be addressed, at least for argument sake, is whether Carroll could have actually kept the program in the national championship conversation? USC certainly had enough talent on the first string over the last four years, even entering 2012 as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation, but the Trojans' depth was massacred by the NCAA.

The legendary coach remains a heralded icon in the LA community but to be honest, that took some time after the major breakup between coach and program. As USC continued to muddle off sanctioned seasons that never could quite reach Rose Bowl nor National Championship expectations, fans better recognized and revered Carroll for his work.

The writing was already on the wall, especially after USC's pounding at the hands of Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal, and the Trojans final season under Carroll (9-4, 5-4) certainly didn't have the same juice as the first eight years.

Healing takes time, but after four difficult years to handle on the field, it looks as if both USC and Pete Carroll are finally setting sail for imminent success. It took longer than some may have expected, but a full recruiting class of players --including John Martinez, Abe Markowitz, Torin Harris, Devon Kennard and many others who were first recruited by Carroll-- have finally left the program and now graduated to bigger and better things.

It certainly doesn't take too much to recognize the impact Carroll left on the program. His name will go down as one of the most successful USC Football coaches in history, and he might already have the award for greatest "Big Game" coach if not for that individual effort of shear will and jaw-dropping determination from Vince Young.

But when recruits talk about committing to USC, they mention a few important things. They talk about facilities and academics around campus, many things that Athletic Director Pat Haden has improved over the last four years, and the sure-fire next thing that comes out of their mouths starts with Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, LenDale White and many of the players that dominated the early 2000s when they first started watched college football games as little kids.

So even now, much like Carroll embraced his fans for a solid decade at the Coliseum, he once again stands united with the Trojan Faithful as the schools finally rids itself clear of NCAA sanctions and starts restocking those recruiting classes.

"What I hope comes out of this is that this never happens to a university again," Carroll told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it was extraordinarily overdone, an overreaction."